TAMPA — Casimar Naiboa and Maria Rodriguez climb into their 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan and head out on a near-daily journey that no parent wants to make.
Desperate and tension-filled, it’s a trip they have been taking since Oct. 19. That’s when their son, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was gunned down in what police say was the third in a string of related killings in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood.
"Every day I look for my son’s killer," says Naiboa, 50. "I don’t want this to become a cold case. I want that person to pay."
On this Tuesday afternoon, there is a fresh urgency to the couple’s search. Hours earlier, Ronald Felton, 60, was shot dead. Tampa police say they believe this slaying, too, is related.
"That was my fear, that this person would kill someone else," Naiboa says. "The police need to catch this guy soon."
• • •
As the couple makes their way south down 30th Street, to the half-mile stretch along 15th Street near where the first three killings took place, Naiboa receives a call from a man named Johnnie Compton.
A self-described police volunteer and former bounty hunter, Compton has been staking out a house on 15th Street where he and Anthony Naiboa’s parents believe their son’s killer lives.
"He’s just standing there, really cocky," Compton says over the phone.
The Tampa Bay Times is not naming the subject of the family’s surveillance because he faces no charges. Tampa police spokesman Steven Hegarty declined to comment on any leads in the case or on the work that Compton is doing.
Naiboa said police told him that they do not consider the man a suspect.
The couple first met Compton, 62, at a community meeting on the shootings last month. Since then, Naiboa says, "he has become like a brother to me."
• • •
Naiboa, who is unarmed, says he’s not looking to confront the man he thinks killed his son.
"I just want the police to do something," he says.
Naiboa says he reached out to police with information about the man the day after his son was killed. He says he was contacted by a woman who claimed she saw the man running from the crime scene after Anthony was shot around 8 p.m. Oct. 19.
He has spoken with the woman several times since, including Tuesday morning, and says that he believes her because she’s putting her life at risk.
"She said she was being threatened," Naiboa says.
• • •
By the time Naiboa and Rodriguez, 41, reach the intersection of Hillsborough Avenue and 15th Street, police have closed it.
"They have everything blocked off," Naiboa says as he maneuvers the minivan around the neighborhood’s blockaded streets.
A few minutes later, he makes a right-hand turn onto 15th Street. They drive past a house where a man in a white T-shirt is standing.
"That’s him," says Naiboa. "That’s the guy.
The man glowers as the couple drives by.
• • •
The couple pulls up to the parking lot at the Fat Boy’s grocery store on 15th Street and Osborne Avenue. Compton pulls up in front of them in his cherry red 2010 Dodge Charger and hops out.
"He’s looking right at us," says Compton, pointing to the man they believe is a killer.
As they talk, police at the intersection stop each car, pedestrian and bicyclist. The faint whir of a police helicopter’s blades cuts through the air.
A few minutes later, the owners of Fat Boys ask the news crews that have parked outside to move. Compton and the couple follows suit, moving to a parking lot across the street. As they stand outside talking, a car drives by.
Inside is the man they believe killed their son.
"Did you see that?" asks Rodriguez. "He just shot us the bird. That’s disgusting. He has no soul."
• • •
On their way home, Naiboa and Rodriguez pull up outside 5111 N 15th St.
It’s where their son was gunned down and also the home of Benjamin Mitchell, 22, the first of the victims who was killed Oct. 9. A second victim, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was killed Oct. 11, and her body was found two days later about six blocks away.
Naiboa reaches into the van and pulls out some new votive candles. He bends down in front of a makeshift memorial and lights them.
Watching from the front of her house, Mitchell’s aunt Betty McDaniels sighs.
"This is like when we first heard the news about Benjamin," says McDaniels, 72. "It’s like pulling the scab off a wound we are trying to heal."
• • •
After Naiboa lights the candles, two of his son’s friends walk by and stop to pay their respects.
Arthur Chester, 23, bends down in front of the memorial and makes the sign of the cross against his forehead as his friend Quinton Jones, 17, looks on.
"You be careful," Rodriguez tells the young men. "I don’t want you walking alone here. I don’t want anything to happen to you."
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.